This must rank as one of Bangladesh’s finest One-Day International wins ever, on par with our victory, also in Cardiff, against Australia in 2005, and against England at the Adelaide Oval in the 2015 World Cup. It wasn’t just the fact that Bangladesh defeated New Zealand by five wickets on Friday (June 9), but the manner and the circumstances under which victory was achieved, that made it truly special.
Both teams had to win this game to stay alive in the Champions Trophy, so it wasn’t merely about skills but also about desire and hunger. In the end, Bangladesh’s strong will and commitment to the cause was greater than New Zealand’s, which is why Mashrafe Mortaza’s men are now within sight of a place in the semifinal.
Of course, that berth in the last four is far from guaranteed, but I can assure you that never will England have gone into a match with as much support as they will on Saturday, when they take on Australia. Upwards of 160 million Bangladeshis will be squarely in England’s corner, rooting for the home side! After all, an England victory will secure a historic semifinal berth for Bangladesh, and I am sure Eoin Morgan will welcome all the backing his team can get as it prepares to face the old enemy.
Back to this game, an historic one for Bangladesh. As I have mentioned in these columns previously, Bangladesh had yet to put in a complete, all-round performance in the tournament. They couldn’t have chosen a better occasion to rectify that anomaly. The bowling was spot-on after Kane Williamson opted to bat, and the batting was shored up by the old, wise heads of Mahmudullah and Shakib Al Hasan after an early collapse threatened to undo all the good work of the bowlers in the morning.
It turned out to be a good toss to lose because Bangladesh had the chance to exploit any early advantage there might have been. New Zealand got off to a rapid start, but once past the first Power Play, Bangladesh were always in the game. They didn’t allow Williamson and Ross Taylor to get away even when they were in the middle of a solid partnership, and I feel Shakib’s bowling had a big part to play in that.
Shakib came into this game without much to show with either the ball or the bat, but he is a special player, and he chose a special occasion to galvanise himself. He was probably unfortunate not to pick up wickets, but he kept things very tight. The scoreboard might eventually show that Williamson was run-out, but I think Shakib had a part to play in that dismissal, because his tightness through the middle overs forced New Zealand to look elsewhere for run-scoring options.
I thought the decision to field Taskin Ahmed was both bold and correct, and I don’t say it with the benefit of hindsight. Taskin is a wicket-taking bowler, and as New Zealand were to find out later in the day, a wicket-taker is always of greater value than a line-and-length bowler. In many ways, every move by Mashrafe Mortaza turned out to be a master-stroke. He took a gamble by introducing Mossadek Hossain’s offspin late in the innings, and it paid rich dividends as New Zealand were restricted to 265 when they looked on course for a total in the range of 290.
Even so, 266 in a pressure situation wasn’t an early chase. Bangladesh’s hopes revolved around the in-form Tamim Iqbal, but of course, no batsman can score in every game. I wasn’t too concerned when Tamim went cheaply, but the alarm bells began to ring when Tim Southee picked up three wickets in his opening spell and Bangladesh rapidly tumbled to 33 for 4.
Neither Mahmudullah nor Shakib had shown great touch with the bat, the target was a long way off and this was a do-or-die game. All those factors combined to put the two centurions’ efforts in perspective.
Despite the match situation, they weren’t to be bogged down by pressure. The required rate was never allowed to mushroom beyond seven an over, and the batsmen combined the big blows with judicious running to ensure that New Zealand never got a look-in.
I think like Bangladesh had done in their first game against England, New Zealand missed an attacking bowling option in the middle overs. Corey Anderson and Jimmy Neesham are good bowlers but they aren’t exactly the types to run through batting line-ups; as a Bangladeshi, however, I am not complaining!
While Shakib’s hundred was brilliantly conceived, I was even more delighted to see Mahmudullah back among the runs. He is a big-tournament player, and had made two hundreds in the 2015 World Cup when we reached the quarterfinal. There has been some uncertainty over his position in the batting order, but I feel he must bat at No. 4, because he is best suited to control the innings and the greater responsibility will make him feel more accountable. This knock should go a long way towards restoring his confidence, and I look forward to greater things from him.
Bangladesh can savour this win, and then come out and back England to put it past Australia. Their fate is no longer in their hands, but they have done everything possible to keep themselves afloat, and they can be very proud of what they achieved on Friday. I sure am!
This article first appeared at https://www.icc-cricket.com